Another step towards marriage equality in England and Wales

by Jez Smith

Quakers in Britain took another step closer yesterday towards being two-thirds of the way to reaching marriage equality as MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage in England and Wales.

Quakers in Britain welcomed the MPs vote in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will change the law in England and Wales, but not Scotland, hence only being two-thirds of the way to equality. Recording Clerk Paul Parker said: “This is the change in the law we have been seeking since 2009, when Quakers decided to recognise same-sex marriages (see minutes 17 & 23 in this link). It is good to see that ministers and MPs have listened and voted for equality.” Four hundred MPs voted in favour and 175 voted against. There are currently 649 MPs.

“Three and a half years ago Quakers decided that same-sex couples should be able to marry in a Quaker meeting. Since then we have been waiting for the law to catch up. Today that has come a step closer,” added Paul.

“Quakers worship in inclusive meetings, where all committed loving relationships can be witnessed and spiritually celebrated as marriage. Quakers see God in everyone and that leads us to say all are born equal and our love is equal too. We welcome this law, knowing that it is right for us, and that it will not be imposed on other faith bodies who do not yet share our view.”

Lucy Care, a Quaker from Derby who failed to get elected as a Liberal Democrat MP at the last election wrote in the Independent newspaper: “Quakers led the fight to recognise and outlaw slavery.  Our respect for life and peace resulted in the formation of the Friends Ambulance Units in the two world wars.  Quakers work closely with the UN and in current conflict zones such as Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The vast majority of people who want equal marriage are not Quakers, but together our voices are louder as we ‘speak truth to power’.   ‘What is life for,’ as my father says, ‘If it isn’t to help each other?’”

Once a bill passes second reading and the programme motion is agreed, the bill goes to a Public Bill Committee for consideration. At a Public Bill Committee, each clause (part) and any amendments (proposals for change) to the bill can be debated. MPs table amendments they wish to be considered. Any amendments, together with explanatory notes and other papers will be listed in the bill documents page for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Although this is a step towards equality of marriage for Quakers, even when this law comes into effect it will only apply to England and Wales so the other third is Scottish law. The Scottish government still has a consultation ongoing about same-sex marriage. The consultation on the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill (Scotland) which will  introduce same-sex marriage and the religious and belief registration of civil partnership. Phil Lucas, speaking for Scottish Quakers, said they strongly support the broad proposals and the provisions included in the Bill.


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